More than two dozen news organizations have moved to join an Albany Times Union lawsuit against New York State Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver over their refusal to reveal the names of lawmakers who helped direct millions of dollars for pork barrel projects. The motion came as legislative leaders moved for dismissal, arguing lawmakers don’t have to answer for what they say in the legislative process.
The organizations seeking to join the suit included daily newspapers from around the state, the Associated Press, the Virginia-based Gannett Company, NBC, and the New York Press Club. The case in state Supreme Court alleges Silver, D-Manhattan, and Bruno, R-Brunswick, violated the state Freedom of Information Law by refusing to disclose which lawmakers asked for specific grants for community projects, part of $170 million in annual discretionary spending. Attorney General Eliot Spitzer’s office, in papers filed Monday, said the names are protected under the state constitution, which says “for any speech or debate in either house of the legislature, the members shall not be questioned in any other place.” Spitzer’s office argued that disclosing “information concerning a legislator’s involvement with particular pieces of legislation could potentially chill the legislator’s activities.” Recent Times Union stories have reported instances in which some groups hired family members of legislators who steered public money to them.